MMA: Lou DiBella
August, 24, 2011
By Franklin McNeil
AP Photo/Jae C. HongLou DiBella feels defensive-minded boxers are doing more damage to the sport than the UFC.While Bob Arum takes issue with the way Dana White does business, not every boxing promoter disagrees with the UFC president’s decision-making policies.
Shortly after UFC announced that it had inked a major network television deal, Arum made his opinion about the mixed martial arts promotion known to ESPN.com. And it wasn’t very favorable.
The signing of a network deal wasn’t what got Arum’s juices flowing, but that UFC is televising a card on Nov. 12. That’s the same night Arum has WBO welterweight champion Manny Pacquiao defending his title against Juan Manuel Marquez on HBO pay-per-view.
“There is no competition,” Arum told ESPN.com. “If Fox was to put on a top movie that night, it might be more competition. If Fox put on Manchester United that night, it would be more competition.”
It made no difference to Arum that the UFC card will end before Pacquiao and Marquez enter the ring.
Upon learning of Arum’s comments White responded immediately and harshly.
“Bob Arum had the ability to do great things for the sport of boxing,” White told Yahoo! Sports. “You had the ability, Bob Arum, to make boxing great.
“But the problem was you were greedy. You’re a greedy pig, just like all the other guys who were involved in boxing. All you ever did was try to rip money out of it. You never invested a dime into the sport of boxing to make it great, to make it last, to create a future for boxing. He’s nothing but a greedy pig and his jealousy shows non-stop.”
White and Arum have had verbal sparring sessions for some time. Usually, each man could count on getting strong support from individuals in his respective sport, but not anymore.
Boxing promoter Lou DiBella is solidly in White’s corner this time. A former boxing executive at HBO, DiBella knows the sport inside and out, and no one is more upset with the state of boxing than he is.
“I agree with a lot of what [Dana White] said,” DiBella told ESPN.com. “There’s no question that when Don [King] and Bob [Arum] dominated this business for literally generations, that not a lot was invested back in the business. Frankly, Bob Arum admitted as much at his Hall of Fame induction. And the sport is in worse condition today than it’s ever been.
“I don’t believe there is any intentional counter-programming by the UFC. What are they going to do, go against a World Series game that includes the Yankees?
“I’m not out there hating on [UFC]; I don’t think they’re trying to hurt boxing.”
The damage boxing currently experiences, for the most part, is self-inflicted, according to DiBella.
He says too many high-profile boxers are unwilling to stand in the pocket and fight. Their failure to engage is a huge turnoff for today’s young (18- to 34-year-old) fans, who crave nonstop action.
“If a guy fights in retreat, Dana’s not putting him on again,” DiBella said. “He has an advantage because [UFC] is a monopoly. But that aside, you have to know what people find entertaining. If you move backward, and I don’t care if a writer says he’s a good fighter, the public doesn’t want to see him.
“Boxing has lost sight of the fact that it’s a subset of the entertainment business. And Dana has not forgotten that.”
Like many longtime boxing insiders, DiBella once found it difficult to watch a mixed martial arts bout. Boxing is deeply embedded in his soul, and nothing will change that.
But he no longer looks at MMA with disdain. Like many boxing aficionados, DiBella now enjoys watching mixed martial artists display their skills, and he credits UFC with changing his opinion.
“I had not been a big fan of MMA,” DiBella said. “But I now understand it more as a sport, and respect how the UFC is conducting their business. I’m impressed.”